Social animals

The point about the Ventura Boulevard story below is not that I met an old film star. It’s that the meeting was entirely due to her efforts to engage me, despite my aloof antisocial attempts at rejecting her.

What does that tell us? That she was lonely for an English voice, perhaps, for contact with her mother country, despite living in the US for most of her life. That I felt safer in my solitary bubble than risking a rejection myself, and that hiding behind a book was a defence against the imagined pitying and derisory looks from the staff and other customers? I’ve I’m really, really honest, yes. I was 35 and still conscious of my solo state, still secretly hankering after The Perfect Man and a life of bliss, even though I knew that Mr Perfect didn’t exist and even if he did, wouldn’t have been remotely interested in Miss Flawed Neurotic Mess. And that even if he were, the chances of a blissful life of love and laughter were like Bhutan – remote.

As for Nancy – if I had the chance again, I’d have asked her (very rudely) about the Hollywood life, and whether it is as bleak and lonely and empty and soul-destroying as so many say it is. I’d have asked her why she was so happy to talk to someone who wasn’t an autograph hunter, who knew about places she remembered from her childhood (she probably wouldn’t meet too many people in Los Angeles who’d heard of these small English towns), who was happy to talk about ordinary things.

We want connection with happy memories as much as present-day events; finding someone who can link us back to happy times makes us feel good. We want people to like us for ourselves, not for a reputation or a persona. We want to be valued for what’s inside us, not our outward appearance – that goes for the beautiful and the plain. Most of us want to be liked, don’t we?

Maybe random meetings are the best of all, when we’re away from our usual haunts, when there are no expectations, when people take us as they find us, when what you see is what you get. Allowing ourselves or persuading ourselves to smile at a friendly overture and welcome a casual invitation – or make them ourselves – may be our way in not just to new friendships but to a better appreciation of ourselves, as Ruth says in her comment.

Do you agree? What experiences have you had that support this or refute it?

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2 comments on “Social animals

  1. Ruth says:

    Americans are great for brief encounters (?!) I was cycling across Rannoch Moor in Scotland over 30 years ago-a pretty bleak and desolate place, in the most horrendous weather so I was soaking. I stopped at a hotel to use their toilet (as I used to merrily do with no thought for the establishment!) I squelched across the thick carpet in the lobby into the loo, followed by a large, immaculately dressed and made up woman. The only occupants in the loo, I settled in, then was interrupted by an American voice from the next cubicle-“I bet you were glad to find these here weren’t you?” PANIC!!! Was she talking to me? Didn’t she know the English Etiquette of Not Talking to Strangers in the Toilet? Obviously not as she persevered when met with silence-“Have you come far?” I’m ashamed to say now I just hid silently in the cubicle until I heard her leave, then scurried out myself without looking round for her. I was 18 or 19 years old and couldn’t deal with such Un-English-type friendliness in such a situation! But I’m still talking about her 30 years later…

    • !! what a great story… She’s probably still telling people about the soggy ghost she thought she met on Rannoch Moor, whose silence sent her scurrying back to Fort William in a rush…

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